. The prisoners watchthe stories that these shadows play out, and because these shadows are all theyever get to see, they believe them to be the most real things in the world. So,these prisoners represent lowest stage on the line- imagination. A prisoner issomehow freed from his bonds, and look at the fire and the statues themselves.Then, he realizes that what he sees now are more real than shadows and acceptsthe statues and fire as the most real things in the world. This stage in thecave represents belief. He has made contact with real things, the statues, buthe is not aware that there is a greater reality, which is outside the cave. Next,the prisoner goes out of the cave and finally sees the real objects.
He seesthat these objects are even more real than the statues and those were only thecopies of them. Now, he has reached the stage of thought. When his eyes arefully adjusted to the brightness of the outside world, he lifts his sight andlook at the sun. He understands that the sun is the cause of everything he seesaround him. The sun represents the Form of the Good and the prisoner hasreached the highest state of knowledge. Socrates explains how the philosopheris like a prisoner who is freed from the cave.
He seeks knowledge outside thecave and outside of the senses. His intellectual journey represents thephilosopher’s journey as a way of reaching the truth and wisdom. Socrates says thatthe free prisoner would think that the world outside the cave was superior tothe world he experienced in the cave; he would bless himself for the change,and pity the other prisoners and would want to bring others out of the cave andinto the sunlight.
The returning prisoner, whose eyes have become accustomed tothe sunlight, would be blind when he re-enters the cave, just as he was when hewas first exposed to the sun. The prisoners, according to Plato, would inferfrom the returning man’s blindness that the journey out of the cave had harmedhim and that they should not have a similar journey. Socrates concludes thatthe prisoners, if they were able, would therefore reach out and kill anyone whoattempted to drag them out of the cave. I think that this part shows that theprisoners are happy in their ignorance and they are not even aware of theirignorance.
And they have prejudices, which they don’t know to be prejudices. Andthe return of the illuminated prisoner represents philosopher’s role in Plato’sphilosophy. He returns even though he knows that they will hate him and evenkill him, as the Athenian Court killed Socrates.
He goes back because some ofthe prisoners may listen, look and may be enabled to rise that happier andsunlit life outside the cave. If we identify the illuminated prisoner withSocrates, we can say that maybe there can be some Plato(s) thanks to his returnto the cave. So, philosophers owe this form of gratitude and service to thecommunity. Also, this metaphor shows why philosopher should be the ruler.
He isnot ignorant like the prisoners in the cave, he has true knowledge and directaccess to the reality, even though the ordinary people don’t understand him.Plato thinks that they don’t understand and in order to understand, we must allproceed through the lower stages in order to higher stages. We each begin ourlives within the cave, with our heads and legs bound. Education is a struggleto move as far out of the cave as possible. Not everyone can make it all theway out, which is why some people are producers, some warriors and somephilosopher-kings. And, philosophers are not only the rulers but also they arethe best teachers, who should go to the dark and ignorant world to enlighten theignorant people.